Mining and tourism among Northern Manitoba issues touched on in speech from the throne

NDP and Liberals say Manitoba Hydro mismanagement and Indigenous relations need to be addressed

Mining and tourism are two areas of of interest to the province’s government and northern residents in the new legislative session but Manitoba’s other parties say more attention should be devoted to Manitoba Hydro and relations with Indigenous people.

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government said in its Nov. 20 speech from the throne that it would seek clarity for communities and the mining industry by implementing a mineral development protocol with willing First Nations and create a liaison committee on mining and exploration to ensure an ongoing dialogue between itself and industry representatives.

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“The committee will offer advice on land use planning and regulatory regime, orphaned and abandoned mines, relationship building with communities, and exploration challenges and solutions,” said Lt.-Gov, Janice Filmon on behalf of Premier Brian Pallister in the speech.

The province also said it would continue efforts to increase tourism, which brought in $1.6 billion in revenue in 2017 – a $100 million increase from the previous year – by putting forth a new tourism strategy based on consultations it has had with 135 individuals and organizations involved in the industry.

“That strategy will align the roles played by tourism organizations, enhance tourism attractions and experiences, and increase tourism visitation and spending,” Filmon said.

“Two years ago, my government embarked on an ambitious plan to make Manitoba Canada's most-improved province,” said the speech. “After a decade of debt and decay, it began the important work of fixing the finances, repairing our services and rebuilding our economy. Manitoba's road to recovery is a long one, requiring both courage and care. Much progress has been made, but much work remains to be done. It is an onerous challenge, but my government has responded as Manitobans have always done. We confront our challenges. We don't run from them. We face them together, united by the unshakeable belief that better days are ahead; that a brighter, more prosperous future awaits our beautiful province.

Both opposition parties said in their alternative throne speeches that Manitoba Hydro was a major area of concern.

“The premier has spent the last two years in office cheerleading rate increases for Manitoba Hydro that would see the average electricity bill increase by hundreds of dollars,” said NDP Opposition leader Wab Kinew. “Rather than work to make life more affordable for Manitoba families, the premier is choosing to increase rates and cause chaos at Manitoba’s most important Crown corporation.”

He also accused the Progressive Conservatives of planning to privatize the corporation.

“We know the dangers of privatization. It means higher bills for families and massive payouts for rich executives. The Manitoba NDP will  introduce legislation this session that will further protect Manitoba Hydro, and any of its subsidiaries, from privatization. We refuse to allow the Pallister government to repeat the mistakes the Filmon government made with MTS. We will stand up to keep Manitoba Hydro public.”

The Liberals, meanwhile, said the Crown corporation could be safeguarded if the government stopped transferring debt onto its shoulders.

“Manitoba Hydro can build up its own capital without damaging rate hikes, provided the government stops undermining Hydro’s finances and ends the practice of transferring government debt to Hydro,” said party leader Dougald Lamont. “By providing a more honest accounting of the debts and obligations of the province and Hydro, it would avert a debt crisis as well as unaffordable rate hikes, and reduce the likelihood of further credit downgrades which will harm all Manitobans.”

Lamont also said that consultation with Indigenous people must be more than just lip service.

“Many difficult issues could be resolved simply by communicating with communities in a respectful way,” he said. “The Pallister government, like many before, believe that they have no responsibility to work with Indigenous communities and prefer to dictate and undermine instead of having any meaningful consultation on issues that affect not only these communities but all of Manitoba. We can only work towards better outcomes for First Nations communities in Manitoba if we are all working together. We need to ensure that Indigenous Manitobans always have a seat at the table and that all government policy development uses a cultural analysis lens lead by First Nations.”

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